Blessed is the three-day Reading Festival, and all who visit her. Why? Well, it just works. It doesn't try to emulate the getting-away-from-it-all sublime spirit of June's Glastonbury, but contemporary rock and rap line-up wise, it's an awesome bill that renders America's struggling tour-fest Lollapolooza very much the poor relation. By no coincidence the top six artists on the Friday main stage bill - Gang Starr, Hole (right), Pavement, Frank Black, Lemonheads and Cypress Hill - are American, while eight out of 11 acts on the same stage on Sunday are also from the States. One reason is that America provides no equivalent of Reading or Glastonbury - the nearest, Lollapolooza, is deteriorating alarmingly in popularity. Another reason Reading does so well is that it spotted early on that the alternative-rock tide was turning away from British pop bands to noisier, cooler, scruffier Yanks. In 1991, a comparatively little-known outfit called Nirvana filled its set with songs from a then unreleased album called Nevermind. The crowd went bonkers. Home counties wimp-pop shoegazers and NME cover stars Chapterhouse followed them. The crowd dozed off. Reading Festival never made such a Brits-over-Yanks mistake again.

But, to 1994: the second stage line-up is the strongest ever. Must-catch outfits include Tindersticks, Sebadoh, Jeff Buckley, Madder Rose and Shootyz Groove. Most importantly - enjoy, enjoy.

The Reading Festival, 26, 27, 28 Aug. Three-day tickets pounds 55, single-day tickets pounds 25 in advance. Available from several venues across London. Phone the Reading Information Line on 0336 404905 (calls charged at 39p per min cheap rate, 49p all other times) for more details.

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